Indonesia declares missing submarine a ‘sunken vessel’

Navy officials in Indonesia say they have found items from the submarine that went missing last Wednesday, crushing hopes of the crew’s survival. The submarine disappeared in an area off the island of Bali, during training exercises, and was classified as missing. But Indonesia’s navy says now it is officially declaring it a ‘sunken vessel’.

Silent witnesses of the KRI Nanggala’s last dive: Pipe fragments, a grease bottle, even a prayer mat. Items fished out of the water that have led the Indonesian navy to conclude its submarine is lost. The vessel had been missing since Wednesday.

Navy ships have fanned out in search. Neighboring countries and the US sent help, including warships and a specialized US reconnaissance aircraft. But it was always a race against time. The submarine’s air supply would have run out on Saturday. The navy believes the 53 sailors on board met their fate even earlier.

The indications are that the vessel sank to depths well beyond its limits, water pressure eventually crushing its hull. It remains unclear why crew lost control over the 40 year-old German-built sub. But with much of Indonesia’s fleet obsolete, the loss of the KRI Nanggala was an accident waiting to happen.